by LeRoi Smith
Kristi Berg (Redline Bicycles) and Steven Fischer (Rad Racing NW / Hagens Berman) won a deceptively technical race in SCX’s stop at the Halloween-themed Maris Farms in Bonney Lake, WA.
Sun and chilly temperatures greeted the racers for the first day of Standard Time. The sun stayed all day and did eventually warm up host venue, Maris Farms, providing a great backdrop for kids of all ages to enjoy the day. Once again Bob’s Red Mill was on hand making sure racers had plenty of heathy oat power for the legs. That power was in demand on a course with mud, climbs and precious little recovery. The start was uphill on a gravel road with a right turn on top to a fast section with large sharp rocks that claimed many tires. Riders then plunged down the slope of an open field, the course lined with pumpkins. The course zigzagged up and down this slope, each time the course hit the bottom, racers had to negotiate a series of mud pits. Early in the day they were wet and sticky; they dried considerably as the day wore on. With the drying trend, the tracks got deep enough to dig into the rocks below the surface. Each muck pit was followed by a climb back up the slope, sucking the life out of legs already burning from powering through the pits. The pumpkin patch ended with welcome pass by the pits with spare bikes and wheels propped up on pumpkins.
Racers then worked a short section of very narrow, twisty, slick corn maze. Many riders commented on how tough corn stalks are. With no ability to pass, and the mud slick enough to demand constant attention and checked speed, this became the only really recovery on the course. Out of the maze, the course turned to more familiar grass pasture with a pair of run/ride choice climbs and then bumpy, off-camber meandering turns back down the slope to the dual-sided pit area and the completion of the lap, followed by yet another climb up the gravel road.
The Elite Women’s race looked to be a battle between Berg who has dominated local racing this season and Kari Studley (Velo Bella) who is putting up strong finishes in national events. Up the start hill it was Beth Lyndon-Griffith (Hagens Berman) leading the pack with Berg, Studley, Jadine Riley (Team Group Health) and Lea Stralka (Team Group Health) close on her heels. It didn’t take long for the field to spread out and by the 2nd lap Studley and Berg had opened a gap with Lyndon-Griffith stuck in the middle and Riley leading her new team mate, Stralka, slightly. By mid race Berg’s technical skills began to differentiate her and the former pro downhiller began to pull out on Studley who was also pulling away from Lyndon-Griffith, who would maintain her gap on Stralka, Stralka would pass a fading Riley late in the race for fourth place on the day. Knowing that Studley lurked close behind, Berg powered through the power sections and finessed her way through the corn maze and slick grassy climbs on route to the women’s win, finishing 7th overall on the line and also the second best elapsed time in the 11:00 start. The only person to go faster was the Cat 3 Master 35+ winner, Dan Studley (NRC/Kona), Kari’s husband.
After 5 races, Berg is running away with the series. The battle for the other two podium spots is tight, with Lee Smith (Team Group Health) currently leading Anne Love (uBRDO Team Project). Once the drop race is considered, things tighten up considerably with both Stralka and Riley jumping into the mix and Lyndon-Griffith still within striking distance.
The first few laps of the Men’s Elite race was also a battle of two as Toby Swanson (Benaroya Research Institute) and Steve Fischer (Rad Racing NW / Hagens Berman) pulled off the front of the pack, powering through the pumpkin patch and minimizing mistakes. During the middle of the race Fischer was just a bit better at mistake mitigation as Swanson had a tough go through the grassy climbs and off-camber swoops on one lap in particular. It was enough to give Fischer a gap that would not be threatened. Behind Swanson, Loren Hanson (Benaroya Research Institute) emerged best of the rest, gaining a gap on Eric Emsky (Rad Racing NW / Hagens Berman). Hansen began closing the gap on his team mate in the later laps. In the end, even with a mostly wide open course, Hansen was unable to work through the traffic significantly faster that Swanson and settled into the final podium slot.
With five races complete, Swanson leads the series with Logen Wetzel (Rad Racing NW / Hagens Berman) close on his heals. After today’s result, Fischer moves into 3rd place. A number of other riders are within striking distance. With many racers traveling to national races, the drop race and double points for the finals will be crucial in the Elite Men’s overall results.
Next week, the series returns to Sprinker Park in Spanaway, WA. SCX is sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, FSA, Redline Bicycles, Thule, Northwave and Bob’s Red Mill. Full results and detailed information can be found at www.seattlecyclocross.com